Woman sentenced for ‘sleight of hand’ thefts at multiple Twin Cities stores

A woman tied to an organized crime group pleaded guilty on Tuesday to theft by swindle and was sentenced the same day.

Baronita Rostas, 24, was sentenced to three years of probation with a stayed sentence of 34 days in the Hennepin County workhouse. She was also given 34 days credit for time served.

Prosecutors say Rostas was part of a Romanian organized crime group that stole more than $6,000 from several Twin Cities area stores over the course of several months this year.

Charging documents say she tricked cashiers at multiple retail stores through a “sleight of hand” or “quick change” scheme that swindled at least $6,280 since March 14.

Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty said in a statement earlier this month “This is a complex case, involving several agencies and a significant amount of work. This sort of high-volume, organized fraud has a significant impact on businesses and their employees, and ultimately impacts all of us through higher prices. We take this crime seriously and will aggressively prosecute those responsible.”

RELATED: Charges: Member of Romanian crime group stole over $6K from Twin Cities area stores

The criminal complaint alleges that state fraud investigators followed up on a report from TJX companies — which operates T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods, Sierra and several other retail stores around the country — that identified several members of the Romanian organized crime group, including Rostas.

Investigators found that she traveled the country for years and successfully frauded several retail locations with other members of the group through the “quick change” scheme.

According to charging documents, the scheme involves bringing merchandise to a register that has a cashier they deem as vulnerable. Then, they show multiple stacks of $100 in $20 bills but retrieve them to “recount” the money. During that time, they strategically put a finger in the stack of cash and ask the cashier for the total amount due for the transaction.

When the cashier looks at the screen, the perpetrators quickly remove a portion of the money. They then provide the cashier with the rest of their cash, get the proper amount of change and then return the merchandise for full value at another store.

A criminal complaint states that the scheme caused a total loss of $1,000 at a Marshalls in Eagan, $900 at a Marshalls in Roseville, over $1,800 in losses at the Albertville Old Navy, Maple Grove Athleta and St. Louis Park Old Navy stores, and an $1,800 in loss at a Richfield Sierra store. Additionally, Rostas was seen using the scheme in North Carolina and Iowa, and prosecutors say the states of Oregon, Ohio and Pennsylvania have five active fraud, theft and larceny warrants for her arrest.